Best Christmas Gift

Someone asked me “did I get a best/significant/special” gift this year.   I did!

Actually, three come to mind, but two are mistakes.

  1. Dominion, the board game. I put my “Amazon wish list” up and let people buy things off of it. Immediately both a friend and my parents bought me the board game Dominion, and got no message about the fact that t he item had already been purchased. I found out the next day since (providentially) I knew about it. We had to return one. It was very frustrating. (But still a great game!)
  2. Girl Genius volume #??? – I ordered Volume 6 a million years ago (read: May), and it didn’t come. In the meantime I thought I ordered it, and ended up with Volume 5 twice. Argh. Finally the local comic book store said it was in, do I still want it. Yes! I did. But it took me awhile to go get it. A friend sent me Volume #7! But I couldn’t read it without #6 so I finally went to go pick it up and it was gone… he said “You will probably see it in 7 days, because someone else picked it up, hint, hint.” (It was 7 days to Christmas). So finally on Christmas I opened the graphic-novel-shaped package from my folks – and it was accidentally another copy of VOLUME 5. So now I have ordered myself a copy of Volume 6 (edition 2 reprint, since 1 is sold out, hence the problems) via the actual Studio Foglio store.
  3. The special gift: 
    My senior pastor, of all people, saw USB “fairy light” Christmas lights and bought them for me for Christmas. It makes me almost teary because it’s so touching to have a pastor know you that well, to be able to pick out something special (and even geeky) that is exactly up my alley. In retrospect that was by far the most special, unexpectedly neat gift. To be understood and accepted as a geek by the pastor.

    Shiny!
    Shiny!
  4. The most special gift of all. 
    Well, of course the gift freely given and most perfectly suited to my needs – the needs of all mankind – is Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas (whether that is the actual birth date or not). If you don’t know Him as your personal Savior, you are neglecting to open the best gift you could possibly receive!  Even I have a hard time remembering who this season is really all about. I’m sorry to have to admit that.

How about you? How was your Christmas?

Growing in Grace

Warning: navel gazing.

Sometimes I don’t think I am growing.

When I work with the youth on Wednesday nights, the youth pastor always asks for testimonies, answers to prayer, and what the Lord is doing in your life. I have a testimony, and I see answers to prayer, and blessings every day! But I never “feel a way the Lord is working in my life”.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter; feelings are just feelings. But often I wonder about it. I hear so many people say “you should be able to look look back on your life a decade/year/month/etc. ago and see that you are holier/closer to Christ now” and I never seem to.

Right now I’m reading through Jeremiah. Back in college we had a class in which reading through the entire Bible was required – so I did it as fast as humanly possible. So this time I’m trying to read Jeremiah with “actual thought and understanding”. I read it through in KJV, and now I am reading it through with a Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Seeing each phrase of Jeremiah with an explanation makes it easier to understand (although reading it in “anything other than KJV” would also make it easier to understand – duly noted). Next I will read it again with my NIV Life Application Bible, for a different take. Finally I think I will try to write it over “in my own words”. This is the biggest “self motivated” Bible study I have done for a decade, to my shame. 

Everyone says “learning about the Bible/God is not the same thing as getting to know God himself” but, to quote a song, “you can’t stand on the promises if you don’t know what they are”. So I will study God’s love letter to us, to learn about Him – there has to be a balance there.

I love all forms of video games & geekery, and sometimes it does bother me when I think how easy it is to spend an hour on a game and so hard it is to spend fifteen minutes in prayer. [Asking “WWJD” before killing an orc is not the same as “WWJD” before spending the hours on the game. ;)]

And which has more eternal value?

I have no happy ending to this post. Just my $.02 and exposed inner conflict, same as any other Christian. It is worth it to ponder this hard question.

Guard Your Heart

This past Saturday was the Hebron Youth Conference for 2009, entirely put together by the associate pastor of my church. He was simultaneously going through a rough spot in his family, so I am awestruck that he put so much time and effort into this as well. God definitely blessed his efforts!

I went as a chaperone, for the youth from my church. The theme was Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” The main point being that we, as Christians, are to be holy – which does not mean “off in a monastery” but it does mean “set apart”. We need to keep out of the grime and sin of the world and culture. It’s a hard thing to do, but when the fruits God promises are things like love, joy, peace, etc. it does seem like there are good rewards. (And it is your “reasonable service.”)

I am not going to go over every thing every speaker said, but I will point out a few things that struck me as interesting takes. When you have been listening to sermons since birth sometimes it is amazing and refreshing to hear something that seems new.

  • Holiness is supposed to be as desirable and enjoyable as a sunny day vs. a cloudy rainy dark day.
  • We are not to “pursue victory” and be “defeated by sin” – that puts all the emphasis on US. In reality we are to realize that sin isn’t just a “struggle” within us; when we sin, we mar God’s reputation, as God’s children, and show the world that being a Christian doesn’t make us any different. That should be one of the motivations not to do it. And so it isn’t a victory/defeat issue, it is a “you are being disobedient” issue.
  • Sometimes our ATTITUDE is what determines whether a thing is beneficial to us or not.
  • When you have daily devotions, the object of your devotion is God. Even your time of prayer should focus on God and not just on “God help me X, Y, Z”
  • Keep having daily devotions even if you have no desire; the desire will come later.
  • Since the Bible is inspired, when you open it, by definition you take the the very breath of God!

Penultimately, I want to add a list of “Five things we want the Lord Jesus to be able to say to us if the Rapture should occur today” – as listed by Dr. Michael Peck. (I was even more struck by these since I knew the two other chaperones sitting next to me were going through such family trials that these were heart-wrenchingly relevant – and still nodding and amen-ing along with this. I was humbled and awed.)

  1. You obeyed Me even when you didn’t understand why. (Mt 4:18-20)
  2. You trusted Me even when it was hard (Ps 125:1)
  3. You worshipped Me even when your heart was breaking (Job 1,2)
  4. You loved Me even when others walked away (Jn 14:15)
  5. You accepted My will even when it was not what you would have personally chosen (Ps 40:8, Ps 143:10)

Finally, in the border of my notes during the sermons I ended up with this little character. I drew her once during each message, and so this was message #5, the final version. (We did have a 6th sermon but I didn’t draw her again.)

Oodle
Oodle

Sleepless in Ohio

This Friday is the “All Nighter” that happens once a year, with area teens (around 450 of them!) who come for a night of sports, evangelism, and lots more sports. This will be my third year of being a leader/chaperone-type-person there.

Anyone have any good tips on how to stay up all night and semi-enjoy it? (No playing WoW is not an option – but bringing those energy potions is.)

Mana Energy Potions
Mana Energy Potions

Main suggestions include energy drinks & eating chocolate covered coffee beans.

Will sleeping a lot this week let me store up for the overnighter? Does sleep work that way, even?

Tips and random blathering appreciated!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas (even if you don’t celebrate it)!
This is not a typical post. Since Christmas is not a typical day, I thought I’d do something pointedly appropriate for Christmas, but it really isn’t my usual blog style.

My pastor gave a sermon on this carol Sunday, and I used some notes from it, and my own thoughts.

Charles Wesley said “Merry Christmas” one of the best ways. (Isn’t it cool that he wrote something in 1739 and we STILL sing it today? That’s quite amazing. Anyway…):

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”

(Col 1:19-20 “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”)

Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”

Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity

(“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning….The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-2, 14-15))

Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

(My pastor pointed out that Christ laid asside the independent use of His attributes as God during the time of His humility on earth. Wow, I can’t imagine that. I mean, we daydream about being super-powered and things like that, don’t we? (Well I do.) And He voluntarily laid aside everything! To die! That blows my mind. I mean this is true all year, but this carol brings the truth home yet again.)

Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Now I had the HARDEST time finding the lyrics to verse 4 online,
but verse 4 deals with Christ as Savior! We can’t leave this one out!

Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

(The KEY to the Old Testament: Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.)

Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

Once more reconciled to God by this life-changing, personal Salvation!

Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to the new-born King!”

Now I COULD have found a verse for practically every line in this wondeful hymn.
Here are two other websites that did, but I can’t say I necessarily vouch for their doctrine, I just wanted to find the lyrics: here and here.